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Jen Thoman Thurston

Artist's Interview

How long have you been creating?
As far back as I can remember... My mom has always been creative with all kinds of arts and crafts and used to paint when I was a little girl. I am sure watching her rubbed off on me and she always encouraged and supported my artistic "endeavors" and still does. I used to have this set of colorful magic markers and I would spend hours making these sets of greeting cards with rainbows and dolphins and such (hey! it was the late seventies early eighties- what can I say) as gifts for family.
What other artists and movements inform your work?
As a child my parents always bought me lots of books and read to me a lot. I loved it. And I think that children's book illustrators were a huge early influence on me. I loved Arthur Rackham, Milo Winters, Michael Hague, Tascha Tudor, Edmund Dulac, Fern Bisel Peat, just to name a few. I remember as a young girl being quite fascinated with that fairy book by Brian Froud and Alan Lee. Later on in my teen years I would have probably told you my favorite artist was Maxfield Parish. I have kind of "outgrown" him, but I am sure that the influence of that phase of my life lingers somewhere in my art. I really like Gustav Klimt- the flowing quality, the colors and detailed patterning, the beautiful, strange women. Also Modigliani, Demuth, and too many more to name. I can't really say in particular how they may have influenced my work, but so many images of their works are flowing around in my brain, that I am sure they come through in my work somehow. My taste is very eclectic and crosses many genres, many styles.
How would you describe your work?
Whimsical, feminine, sometimes contemplative, humorous once in awhile, detailed, usually light and happy.
What are your motivations for creating?
Well, there are many, but I must say that I feel that through most of my life, more often than not, my best work has been gifted work- in other words, when I am making something as a gift for a friend or family member or for a cause or charity. I started off in college with the intention of going into a career in graphic design, but that left me so unmotivated and uninspired. That felt so rigid to me. I didn't know what to do with myself artistically for many years after I dropped out of college. I felt like I had plenty of "technical" ability, but no style of my own at all, and this was very frustrating to me and often made me think that I might give up doing artwork at all. But my work has finally really started developing its own personality over the past several years, and I find that to be very motivational itself. Other than that and the answer to the question about breast cancer later in this interview, I don't know how to describe what motivates me other than to say that I just have an underlying, constant "need" and "want" to create. I love the process of creating and then that feeling of satisfaction of having a final and completed piece.
What do you find stimulating right now? How does this influence your creative process?
Yummy, vivid colors, fun patterns, the human form (that is not just now, but is always one of my favorite images to view and draw or paint or sculpt), antique jewelry, Zuni fetishes, looking at other artists work on ebay, myriads of hairstyles...
Your mother is a 5-year breast cancer survivor--how has her struggle and triumphs affected your work?
I think it has affected me in much the same way as it would affect many people. The news scared me to death and saddened me deeply. My mom, my sister, and I are very close. Nine years ago I moved to Arizona and they are still in Ohio. The only downside of liveing in Az is being so far from them. Anyway, when I got the news, I left work and went to see my mom for a short visit and got my plans together to go back again for a longer stay when she had the mastectomy, so that I could be with her and help her out in any way I could while she was recovering. The fear is enormous. Prior to this time I had been doing a bit of art work here and there and working at a seasonal job that I was really burnt out on, but kept going back to every year. I live with my boyfriend and didn't "need" to work, but I went on doing it and being unhappy about it. I stayed in Ohio with my mom for over two months. She handled it all with such strength and grace. She never complained, she was as sweet as she ever is and was. And although I have always admired my mother and the kind of woman she is, this experience of possibly losing her made this all the more crystal clear to me. I think that it has deepened my fascination with woman as subject matter, with all their differences, and experiences. There are so many women who are beautiful and nurturing and sexy, no matter what age or illness or weight, etc., etc. has done to their bodies. The spirit, the essence, the "femaleness" of woman intrigues me. Seeing my mom go through breast cancer, surgery, chemotherapy, hair loss, scarring, hormonal changes, lymphodema really crystallized these thoughts for me. And also made me realize that life is too short and too unpredictable to be unhappy and not go for your dreams. I never went back to that job, or any other for that matter. Life has afforded me the opportunity to not "have" to work a regular job and to make a go of my art as a freelance career, and although I certainly couldn't support myself at it(yet?!), I am doing what I love to do and am trying to move in that direction. And I think that my mom having cancer has emphasized my desire to celebrate women and there faces and bodies in a happy, whimsical, "life is too short to be down" kind of way. And in the end, her surviving it has of course made me so very, very happy and this can't help but come out in my work!
What would you like your fellow EBSQ artists and collectors to know about you and or your work?
I love what I do, I love my life and I love my family and friends and I hope that this shows in my art. I would want you to know that I am trying to bring something pleasant for eyes to see and your heart to enjoy and sometimes maybe a smile to your day through my art. If looking at my work inspires you to a happy or enjoyable moment in your day, then I have accomplished something wonderful. And ebsq has been a great source of support and inspiration and is so full of good and creative people- wow, hasn't the modern world with its internet provided a great forum for ideas, support, friends and ART?! Thanks to all who collect and enjoy my art- it just makes my day every time!!

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